BIÈRE DE GARDE (“beer for keeping”) is a strong pale ale or keeping beer traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. These beers were originally brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring, to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast during the summertime. Farmhouse production is now supplemented by commercial production, although most Bière de Garde brewers are small businesses.
Typically, beers of this tradition are of a copper or golden color, and as the name suggests the origins of this style lies in the tradition that it was matured/cellared for a period of time once bottled (and most sealed with a cork), to be consumed later in the year, akin to a Belgian Saison. Most varieties are top-fermented and unfiltered, although bottom-fermented and/or filtered versions exist. Particularly authentic products, using only regional ingredients, are entitled to use the Appellation d’origine contrôlée, “Pas de Calais/Region du Nord.
Some of the better known brands include Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre, Trois Monts (8.5%abv), Brasseurs Duyck, Jenlain (7.5%abv), Brasserie Castelain, Ch’Ti and Brasserie La Choulette, Ambrée (7.5%abv).
Article from Wikipedia: “Bière de Garde“
NOTE: There are some world class Bière de Garde style beers from Belgium: Brasserie Dupont- Bière de Beloeil, and from the United States: Hill Farmstead Brewery– Bière de Norma and Adelbert’s Brewery and their Scratchin’ Hippo, and many others.
Bière de Garde Characteristics
AROMA / BOUQUET:
Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate toasty character. Some caramelization is acceptable. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy or herbal). Commercial versions will often have a musty, woodsy, cellar-like character that is difficult to achieve in homebrew. Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. No diacetyl.
Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is good to poor, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), supported by high carbonation.
FLAVOR / TASTE:
Medium to high malt flavor often with a toasty, toffee-like or caramel sweetness. Malt flavors and complexity tend to increase as beer color darkens. Low to moderate esters and alcohol flavors. Medium-low hop bitterness provides some support, but the balance is always tilted toward the malt. The malt flavor lasts into the finish but the finish is medium-dry to dry, never cloying. Alcohol can provide some additional dryness in the finish. Low to no hop flavor, although paler versions can have slightly higher levels of herbal or spicy hop flavor (which can also come from the yeast). Smooth, well-lagered character. No diacetyl.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Medium to medium-light (lean) body, often with a smooth, silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol, but should be very smooth and never hot.
A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal farmhouse beer.
Bière de Garde characteristic descriptives from 2008 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. (http://www.bjcp.org)
BIÈRE DE GARDE